In 2014, over the Labor Day weekend, billboards began to appear across Erie County bearing a simple message to residents: “You Are Beautiful.” The art was the work of Chicago-based artist and designer Matthew Hoffman. Hoffman began the project as a graffiti-style self-affirmation scrawled on the rusting trusses of an underpass in the Rogers Park neighborhood of Chicago. Following significant praise for this tiny gesture, Hoffman began to develop stickers bearing the phrase that have now been circulated across the globe, as well as massive installations in all manner of media. Whatever they are made of, Hoffman’s signs have gained a foothold in the landscape wherever he has produced them. The Erie County presentation of the work is the most immersive that the artist has created to date.
You Are Beautiful presents the philosophical notion of essential beauty in our personal lives and collective landscapes. Hoffman has commented, “When the phrase ‘You Are Beautiful’ is integrated into a city or community, it creates an immediate positive dialogue.” Hoffman’s quest was to make a statement that was always true. “I found that I couldn’t make this statement true with any other word than ‘beautiful,’” he said. Though the artist pursues other projects that align with his enthusiasm for creating moments that support positive placemaking while advocating for public compassion, You Are Beautiful has become a lifelong commitment.
You Are Beautiful stickers were available free at many community events and sites throughout fall 2014.